Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Bush will campaign in Louisville

House member Anne Northup fighting off Democrat Conway

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - President Bush will campaign Friday in Kentucky, where Republican U.S. Rep. Anne Northup is trying to fend off a hard-charging Democratic opponent.

An administration official confirmed the Kentucky trip without elaborating on the president's specific travel plans. More details were expected today.

A visit to Louisville to campaign for Ms. Northup would be the second by Mr. Bush visit on her behalf.

Democrats said a Louisville stop by Mr. Bush this week as he crisscrosses the nation for GOP candidates would indicate that Ms. Northup's Democratic challenger, Jack Conway, is gaining on her.

"I think she needs the president to come in here to boost up her party," Conway campaign manager Mark Riddle said.

Northup campaign chairman Ted Jackson said a return visit by the president should not be seen as concern about Mr. Conway's campaign.

"That would be the wrong conclusion," he said. "We are in great shape going into the last week of this race, and feel very confident that Anne will be elected to her fourth term in Congress."

Mr. Bush headlined a $1,000-per-plate fund-raiser for Ms. Northup, gave a policy speech and met the city's world champion Little League baseball team during a Sept. 5 stop in Louisville. Mr. Bush raised more than $450,000 for Ms. Northup's campaign in September.

State Republican Chairwoman Ellen Williams said the Northup-Conway campaign is among a small number that remain competitive nationally as the two parties wrangle for control of the House.

"It is absolutely one of the most highly charged contests across the country," Ms. Williams said.

Democrats hold a roughly 2-to-1 registration advantage in the 3rd District, covering Louisville and most of the Jefferson County suburbs.

Ms. Northup unseated one-term Democrat Mike Ward in 1996, winning by a mere 1,200 votes. Two years later, she defeated former Attorney General Chris Gorman by about 3 percentage points. She held off then-state Rep. Eleanor Jordan by a more comfortable margin two years ago.

Ms. Northup has touted her ability to bring federal money home to the district for a myriad of projects. Mr. Conway, a telegenic former aide to Gov. Paul Patton, is making his first bid for elective office. He has portrayed Ms. Northup as out-of-step with the district on issues like Social Security and a prescription drug program for the elderly.

While the White House was officially mum about Bush's specific plans, Republicans scheduled a rally Friday at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

The Northup campaign has run television ads showing Mr. Bush praising the congresswoman, who was among his earliest supporters when he ran for the presidency.

Mr. Jackson said Mr. Bush is "immensely popular" in the district.

Laurie Rhodebeck, an associate professor of political science at the University of Louisville, said a Bush visit could signal that Republicans hold Ms. Northup in high regard and want to show she is part of the House GOP team. Or it could signal that Republicans are "very nervous" about how the campaign has evolved.

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